Noun-phrase complexity in the texts of intermediate-level Norwegian EFL writers: stasis or development?

  • Sylvi Rørvik Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
Keywords: Learner language, Noun-phrase complexity, Pre-tertiary learners, L2 English


This paper examines the longitudinal development in noun-phrase complexity in English texts written by Norwegian learners in school years 8-10. The study is based on material from the TRAWL (Tracking Written Learner Language) corpus (Dirdal et al., 2017; Dirdal et al., 2022), comprising longitudinal data from nine pupils. The study tests the hypothesis proposed by Biber et al. (2011) that noun-phrase complexity increases gradually as writers develop, and answers the following research question: To what extent can longitudinal development in noun-phrase complexity in accordance with Biber et al.’s (2011) stages be traced in the written production of intermediate-level Norwegian EFL writers in Years 8-10? The results indicate that there is very little evidence to suggest an increase in sophistication as regards phrasal modification over the three years. Instead, the pupils primarily rely on the types of modifiers that are acquired in early developmental stages, such as attributive adjectives and prepositional phrases. Thus, there should be a greater pedagogical focus on developing pupils’ skills in using more sophisticated noun-phrase modifiers, to prepare them for the future demands placed on their academic-writing skills.